Hosts’ real Olympic challenge: after the games

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LONDON (AP) - For athletes and spectators at Sochi, it’s time to pack up. But for the host cities, the real challenge begins with the end of the Olympics. How do they continue to use the expensive stadiums after the party’s over? What happens to the athletes’ villages? What is the legacy of the games?

Here’s a look at what some past Summer and Winter Games sites around the world look like post-Olympics.

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LONDON, 2012

London continues to bask in the success of the most recent Summer Games, but the Olympic legacy is difficult to determine.

The flagship venue, renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is being converted into a massive park as big as London’s famous Hyde Park, complete with wildlife habitats, woods and sports facilities. The first part of the ambitious project will fully open to the public in April.

The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium at the center of the park has been troubled by controversy since even before the games, and its post-games use was the subject of months of legal wrangling. The stadium is now being converted into a soccer venue and the home of the West Ham soccer club, with an expected price tag of $323 million. Many argue taxpayers should not have to fund a Premier League club, though officials insist that the stadium will continue to host other major sporting events, including the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

The athletes’ village is still being transformed into the East Village. At nearby East Wick and Sweetwater, based at the west edge of the park, there are already signs that the process will yield less housing than originally pledged. Other promises, like the Olympic Museum due to open this year, have simply been quietly dropped.

There’s no doubt that the Olympics improved public transport in the city’s East End, historically a deprived, industrial area poorly served by commuter links.

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VANCOUVER, 2010

All games venues in Vancouver remain in use, with local authorities funding a $110 million trust to make sure that they don’t fall into disrepair.

The most successful venue appears to be the Richmond Olympic speed skating Oval, a widely used community sports and events facility that attracts more than 550,000 visitors a year. Dozens of sports groups run regular programs at the Oval, which now houses two international-size rinks for hockey or speed skating, basketball and squash courts, an indoor track and a rowing tank. The venue, which has hosted numerous provincial, national and international championships in a variety of summer and winter sports, is cited as a positive legacy of the games.

Federal and provincial governments pay some of the Oval’s operating costs, as well as for the Whistler Sliding Center, used by athletes as a training facility, and the Whistler Olympic Park.

But the athletes’ village has not fared so well. The City of Vancouver had to take over financing for the 1,100-unit village after the developer stopped payment on its construction loan due to cost overruns and the 2008 financial crisis. The city has sold most, if not all, of the units, but it expects to lose nearly $300 million.

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